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Subject: New technologies for conservation of artifacts damaged in Iraq

New technologies for conservation of artifacts damaged in Iraq

From: David Harvey <top10denverdave>
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Here are a few thoughts on this recent thread on the ConsDist List.

The original query from a UPI reporter asking if there were emerging
high technologies in conservation that could be used in the
conservation of the damaged of artifacts in Iraq has mostly been
sneered at for personal polemics. This does not put a good face on
our profession. It was obvious to me that the reporter was seeking
understanding about our profession not our politics--do we allow
personal politics to enter into our work when we have damaged
artifacts in front of us? Do we castigate and rail at clients or
colleagues about how the artifacts have been damaged?

The answer to the original question is that, no, there are no
"nanotechnologies" in use in conservation. When an artifact is
physically damaged or broken it is usually on a macro scale and
therefore using adhesives that have been tested for longevity and
stability and that are reversible (for future retreatments) is the
current state of the art of art conservation. Modern conservation
brings a whole realm of chemistry and scientific testing to bear on
problems that involve cleaning, uncovering previous restorations,
and environmental effects on collections. Do we all wish that more
scientific resources could be applied to conservation? Yes!

The most important development in regards to the Iraq situation that
I have heard is that there is a proposal by some of the world's
major cultural institutions to form a consortium of damage response
teams--to travel anywhere in the world to respond to major disasters
to cultural materials from war or natural disasters. This proposal
is long overdue and I hope that it does come to fruition.

Yes war and looting are regrettable and reprehensible--but alas they
are an inevitable part of human affairs. Our place, as conservators,
is to raise awareness about the value and important of cultural
materials, to encourage some sensitivity and thought about that
beforehand (if possible), and to offer our advice and resources as
cultural humanitarians.

David Harvey
Artifacts
2930 South Birch Street
Denver, CO  80222
303-300-5257


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